These were our favourite movies of 2022

Twenty Flicks writers join forces to count down their top twenty films of 2022.

As the disruption of COVID receded somewhat, it was great to get back into cinemas this year. Fittingly, there was plenty to discover, from blockbusters to unexpected indie gems, and as much as we continue to champion the big screen experience, streaming also continued to play an important role in connecting audiences with even more great viewing.

In putting this top twenty list together, our writers were asked for a list of at least ten films, with 100 points to allocate across their picks (and a maximum of 40 points per film). With the resulting lists aggregated into one, this methodology allowed our writers to champion the films released in cinemas or on streaming this year that they felt most passionate about, and the results reflect a great year of movie-watching—with plenty of recommendations for readers.

Twenty writers from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom contributed to these final rankings. Collectively, their lists featured a staggering total of 111 films, speaking to the vast amount of strong releases this year. This top twenty reflects where they found (some) agreement—interestingly, no single film appeared on every list.

A big thanks to everyone who submitted lists: Rachel Ashby, Amelia Berry, David Michael Brown, Dominic Corry, Lillian Crawford, Rory Doherty, Adam Fresco, Matt Glasby, Eliza Janssen, Liam Maguren, Steve Newall, Amanda Jane Robinson, Daniel Rutledge, Stephen A Russell, Fatima Sheriff, Katie Smith-Wong, Tony Stamp, Sarah Thomson, Cat Woods and Aaron Yap.

Where possible, each entry quotes from a Flicks review published at the time of release.

20. Flux Gourmet

Surreal, funny and stylish, Peter Strickland’s Flux Gourmet was one of the weirder films of the year—even by the standards of the director’s prior work In Fabric and Berberian Sound Studio. The film follows a trio of performance artists who make sound via food preparation (something the director himself has previously done), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this bizarre and sometimes very, very gross film that saw us witness at least one walkout…

“It’s a strange little self-contained world of perversion, passion, and bodily preoccupation, set off by a visual style that draws from 1970s British and Italian horror to really hone in on the uncomfortable and the surreal,” said Amelia Berry.

19.  Athena

Furious and frantic, Athena builds on director Romain Gavras’ previous work, most notably his music videos Stress for Justice and Bad Girls and Born Free for M.I.A. As many have noted, the rest of this feature can’t quite live up to its audacious, opening sequence—a spectacular oner moving from French police press conference to violent protest and a housing estate entering a state of siege. Amid the growing chaos and violence as riot squads descend on the estate, three brothers of Algerian descent pursue conflicting, desperate strategies as they’re backed into various corners. Despairing, urgent, tragic, brutal—and a strong showcase of Gavras’ talents.

18. Bodies Bodies Bodies

A24’s slasher satire sees a group of privileged, social media-savvy 20-somethings get together at a remote family mansion—perhaps a stressful enough situation even before the bodies pile up! Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott is the hilarious scene-stealer among a uniformly strong cast (Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Lee Pace, Pete Davidson), the film also packing both an entertaining final reveal and a side-eye sarcasm of American youth befitting Dutch director Halina Reijn (whose previous film Instinct is also worth seeking out).

“If you’re down with the topical vernacular and Charli XCX opening track of Bodies Bodies Bodies, you’ll have a grand old time, despite some sluggish or unimaginative moments,” wrote Eliza Janssen.

17. Mister Organ

Kiwi journalist and filmmaker  David Farrier (Tickled) bites off more than he can chew in this doco, first becoming fascinated with some very, very odd behaviour, and then entering the orbit of someone who’s already left a trail of psychological destruction behind him. Farrier’s investigation into Michael Organ becomes a bizarre years-long relationship with his subject, including three-hour phone calls, coffee dates and jocularity even as Organ mounts a campaign against him and brave people come forward to share their stories of harm and abuse. We’ve all known people with small degrees of Organ’s personality, but nothing quite like this.

“Farrier has featured a generous amount of himself in the movie, as a way to try and display how Organ operates, because explaining it is utterly futile,” wrote Tim Batt. “Like trying to describe how a dull but never-ending headache feels to someone who’s never experienced one.”

16. Barbarian

Arriving on a wave of US horror hype, Barbarian gets underway with a seemingly simple premise—a woman (Georgina Campbell) arrives at her Airbnb in a dilapidated Detroit street one night to find another guest is already inside. She’s unnerved, as are we, especially as the stranger is played by Bill Skarsgård aka Pennywise, but suspicion soon gives way to outright shriek-inducing (that would be me) horror. Swerving in unexpected directions, Barbarian gets structurally, stylistically and thematically ambitious while still proving chillingly watchable.

“What starts as a perhaps disappointingly conventional thriller—the first act kinda feeling like any solid Shudder Original until the shit really starts hitting the fan—reveals layers of comedy, sickening psychology, and more experimental visuals,” said Eliza Janssen.

15. Glass Onion

Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc makes a welcome return in Knives Out sequel Glass Onion, alongside a new all-star ensemble embroiled in—surprise!—a murder mystery. This time it’s set on the Greek island belonging to an appropriately gauche, self-important, and somewhat ridiculous tech billionaire (Edward Norton). Bigger, brighter and broader than its comfy cable-knit jumper of a predecessor, Glass Onion has a great cast bringing the comedy (Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista) with Janelle Monáe anchoring its emotional core. The laughs keep coming, not least of all from Craig, and the mystery element unspools in satisfyingly layered fashion.

“A silly, clever, and totally riveting whodunnit that rewards close attention and demands an immediate rewatch,” wrote Amelia Berry.

14. Stars at Noon

Claire Denis’ thriller paints pandemic-era Nicaragua as the sort of sweaty, desperate place Westerners wash up when their privilege is no longer acceptable currency and they’ve finally run out of luck. Against the familiar backdrop of a colonial thriller, two of Hollywood’s hottest young things (Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn) end up in each other’s arms and a whole lot of trouble, unsure if the next betrayal they’ll experience is from one another. The temperature rises both in and out of the bedroom as the pair each try to dig their way out of the potentially fatal messes they’re in. Qualley is as electric as she is desperate, her chemistry with Joe Alwyn is solid, and Stars sells the sweatiness (tropical, carnal, panicked) to satisfying effect.

“Stunning, sensual photography, a heady, claustrophobic, strangely sour atmosphere and raw, uninhibited performances,” observed Katie Parker.

13. The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell reunite with writer-director Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin, a dark comedy exploring a falling-out between a pair of lifelong friends on a remote Irish island in the 1920s. For some, this offered a welcome return to the charm of In Bruges after McDonagh’s polarising US-set Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, even if Banshees again takes on a heavy topic, the bitterness that can come from the termination of a relationship. In this case, one threatens the other that, no matter how much they want to talk about what’s happened, the breaker-upper will cut off one of his own fingers with sheep shears…

“Feels like a return to In Bruges with its quiet philosophising amongst loud banter, as well as using the same two stars,” wrote Rory Doherty.

12. Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg’s first excursion into body horror since icky virtual reality tale eXistenZ way back in 1999 may not have quite been a return to the 80s heights of his pioneering work in the genre, but is still packed with plenty of big ideas and a welcomely familiar strain of straight-faced absurdity. In a crumbling, dystopian future where organ removal has become performance art, Viggo Mortensen is famous for growing and rearranging his guts, Léa Seydoux wields very Cronenbergian surgical instruments to fish ’em out in front of a live audience, and Kristen Stewart serves up her weirdest performance yet.

“It’s the daftness that wins over the dourer, more meandering stretches, perfectly summed up by Stewart’s ludicrously obvious tldr description of what’s going on here—surgery is the new sex,” said Stephen A Russell.

11. The Quiet Girl

An award winner at Berlin 2022, this Irish-language tale follows shy nine-year-old Cáit, left in the care of two distant relatives for the summer. Isolated from her peers at school, neglected by parents, Cáit’s slow to form relationship with her caregivers for the summer, a distant cousin and her husband. As both sides of this divide grow closer, overcoming all-too-common trauma on either side, the relationship that forms offers new, if temporary, comfort from Cáit’s profound loneliness and offers healing to the adults, too. We loved this patiently paced tale, one that rich in detail, sympathy, quietly emotionally devastating.

10. Official Competition

This Spanish-language satire gets underway with a wealthy businessman in search of a legacy project to bear his name after he dies, but who can’t decide between building a bridge or funding an adored film. Soon, however, rehearsals are underway for an adaptation of The Rivals (an acclaimed novel about feuding brothers), in the hands of eccentric Palme d’Or winning director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz). Her leads are each cut from very different cloth—one a stereotypical sell-out to Hollywood (Antonio Banderas), the other an esteemed and pretentious theatre actor (Oscar Martínez). Thankfully focusing less on the film’s production than the increasingly absurd rehearsal techniques insisted upon by the director and the power struggle between the two actors, the results are a hilarious skewering of the creative process and actors’ hypocrisy and ego.

Official Competition serves as an incredible showcase for the talent of its three leads,” wrote Amelia Berry. “With career-best comic performances, Cruz, Banderas, and Martínez wring laughs from the most subtle looks and gestures.”

9. Triangle of Sadness

Earning director Ruben Östlund his second Palme d’Or after art world satire The Square in 2017, Triangle of Sadness marked his English-language debut and also some of his most audaciously-staged black comedy yet. In particular, what happens aboard a luxury yacht full of upper-class passengers will not be erased from the memory of anyone who’s seen it… This gleeful takedown of the uber-wealthy and shrewd assessment of transactional power dynamics leaves little to the audience’s imagination as it traverses the modeling world, luxury yacht life, and a lonely beach. Marxist captain Woody Harrelson is great, as is Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean (RIP)—and what happens on the high seas is probably the set piece of the year.

Triangle of Sadness is content to sit back and gawk at surface-level misery without incisively looking deeper,” wrote Eliza Janssen. “That middle act, though: schadenfreude and slapstick combine to make any viewer regurgitate big laughs.”

8. Muru

A top earner at the New Zealand box office, the shadow of colonialism looms large over Tearepa Kahi’s fact-based drama Muru. Kahi’s response to 2007’s police raids on a small Māori community is grounded in fact, but goes beyond the true story of police overuse of anti-terrorism powers to show fury at two centuries of colonial violence inflicted on the Tūhoe people. A strong cast of Kiwi talent is superbly anchored by Cliff Curtis (joined by Jay Ryan, Manu Bennett and Simone Kessell) and a unique level of verisimilitude is achieved in casting Tūhoe activist Tāme Iti (who was at the centre of the real-life events) to play himself onscreen. Many of us were bawling watching this as it opened the NZ International Film Festival, a beautiful and gut-wrenching experience.

“A masterclass in storytelling, proving that sometimes fiction can get us closer to truth than any documentary,” wrote Rachel Ashby.

7. Bones and All

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet star in this horror-romance road movie reuniting director Luca Guadagnino with Chalamet (and fellow Call Me by Your Name castmate Michael Stuhlbarg). Early in the film, we’re introduced to the destructive urges a young woman has been battling, depicted onscreen in brutal, unflinching fashion—and soon, for better or worse, Maren (Russell) learns she’s not the only one harbouring these appetites. Forming an instant connection with young runaway Lee (Chalamet), the pair hurtle across 1980s America, developing an intense bond where each expected their real selves to remain alone. Deeply moving and occasionally visually confronting, this is another 2022 entry where we observed walk-outs at some of its more extreme moments…

“In its artful clash of gory, blood-soaked ferocity and the tenderness of a teenage love story, Bones and All is an allegory of addiction that is restless with hunger, desire and existential horror,” wrote Cat Woods.

6. Aftersun

Award-winning drama Aftersun reflects the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday a young woman took with her father 20 years earlier. The acclaimed feature debut of Scottish director Charlotte Wells, it captures an act of reflection on a parent-child relationship, one that points to a realisation that the child never really understood their dad. At a resort in Turkey in the 1990s, eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) is holidaying with her young father Calum (Paul Mescal), the film capturing moments of both closeness and distance between the two, a trip that Sophie will reflect on later as an adult from a new perspective, seen through memory and the home video footage the pair took on their trip.

“The film has a heavy melancholic feeling to it, almost as if it’s pressing down on you throughout until it bursts in a spectacular, poetic way that signals a blistering new filmmaking talent,” wrote Rory Doherty. “Aftersun feels precious; impeccably crafted, led by fragile characters, threatening to crack at any moment, but who value resilience above all.”

5. Top Gun: Maverick

In an era cluttered with nostalgia, Top Gun: Maverick bucked the trend by being both wildly successful and outstandingly good. A soaring reminder of the power of blockbusters, if Tom Cruise didn’t single-handedly save cinemas here, he damn sure fired a much-needed salvo to remind everyone of the power of movie-going just as the worst of COVID was waning. Working with two different filmmakers he’d teamed up with before (Oblivion‘s Joseph Kosinski directing, Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘s Christopher McQuarrie a writer/producer), Cruise also brought the gung-ho enthusiasm we’ve come to expect and roped in his cast for unprecedented aerial exploits. Most of all, we bought him as Maverick, infusing the return of a character from nearly 40 years ago with high-watt movie stardom.

Top Gun: Maverick is just a movie, yes, wrote Daniel Rutledge. “But it is one of those ones you only get every few years that sensationally reaffirms your belief in how a movie can be magic.”

4. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Probably no-one expected ‘the Daniels’, directors of Daniel Radcliffe’s-farting-corpse-movie Swiss Army Man to follow it up with one of the most beloved features of the year. But that’s exactly what happened with this absurd OTT multiverse-straddling action-packed comedy-drama pic, one that resonated thanks to its family-centred emotional core. Also keythe rich roles welcomely offered to Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (and to Stephanie Hsu and James Hong). As much a celebration of the iconic Yeoh as it is anything else, Everything Everywhere All at Once may have earned its promotional tie-in hot dog finger gloves and buttplug—sorry, I mean trophy—candles, but it’s the intimate moments sold by its stars that proved most moving, even as we thrilled to Yeoh and Quan kicking ass. 

“You’d better grab your ticket and hold on for dear life as the subtitles and sight gags barrel past,” proclaimed Eliza Janssen.

3. RRR

I first got excited about the potential of RRR when reading on Twitter that in the first 45 minutes there were three action sequences to rival the Fast & Furious franchise—and then the opening title card. Watching this with a crowd was a true thrill—with so much of CGI-powered action cinema feeling increasingly stale, Indian Telugu action drama RRR swings for the fences with an irrepressible energy that puts Hollywood counterparts to shame. Two real-life Indian revolutionaries from the 1920s team up in this fictional account, going up against the colonial evils of the British Empire (depicted here with maximum scenery-chewing relish by Ray Stevenson et al). While it might be turning up on a number of best-of lists, RRR hardly needs us patting the film on its back in patronising western fashion, its thrilling three-hour runtime and ability to put a grin on faces showing that it knows exactly what it’s doing.

“One of the best action movies I’ve seen in years,” wrote Travis Johnson. “I’d have to go back to the first John Wick or even The Raid to recall an actioner that had me sit up and take notice like this.”

2. Decision to Leave

Back to the big screen after his excellent series adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl with Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård, Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) won Best Director for Decision to Leave at Cannes this year, and deservedly so. A romantic mystery with a classic setup, this is a contemporary riff on Hitchcock and femmes fatale which sees a detective fall for a freshly-widowed woman—who as cinema convention dictates, is also the prime suspect in her husband’s death. It sounds simple, but in Park’s hands this is not just an intricate, knowing noir but also a showcase for his relentless filmmaking style, one that shows his mastery of the visual form.

“From beginning to end, you’re reminded of the unparalleled dynamism that fills the director’s work; with impactful sound design, gorgeous framing, and genius edits,” wrote Rory Doherty.

1. Nope

Jordan Peele returned to big screens this year with Nope, a film that had plenty to say about the nature of spectacle while also delivering exactly that. His follow-up to Get Out and Us placed us with siblings Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, each of whom turned in excellent and very different performances, as they made an uncanny and chilling discovery on their Californian ranchland. Funny, scary, observant, and above all original, we never knew quite was around the next corner, and Peele also used the scale of the IMAX format to frequently have us nervously peering around the frame. There was a lot going on here, which proved too confounding for some, but the anxious pleasure of watching fresh ideas play out unpredictably on the biggest possible screen was something that no other film quite captured the same way this year.

“It’s awesome seeing a commercial director continue to cement his voice in a field crowded with pre-existing IP, and a big part of Peele’s appeal is his skill with the unexpected,” wrote Tony Stamp. “Nope is hugely enjoyable on a surface level, and there’s tons to dig into on repeat viewings, but its main asset is how straight-up weird a lot of its elements are.”